Game Four – Cubs 3 Astros 4
WP – Wesley Wright (1-0) LP – Jon Lieber (0-1) Save – Jose Valverde (1)
The Cubs third loss of the season can be explained by one word….unearned. Lou Piniella’s offense and defense turned in poor performances and were unable to back solid outings by Rich Hill and Jon Lieber. Hill made only two mistakes in 6 innings and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits with 3 walks, a hit batsman and 4 strikeouts. He walked Mark Loretta with 2 outs in the 4th and then surrendered a 2-run homer to J.R. Towles, the second of his big league career. Jon Lieber was charged with the loss, but both runs were unearned. The Astros scored 2 runs in the 8th after an error by Mark DeRosa and misplayed ball in left field by Alfonso Soriano.
Chris Sampson once again dominated the Cubs as the young right-hander did not have a single 3-ball count on the afternoon….and threw only 71 pitches in 6 2/3 innings. Sampson faced the minimum through the first 4 2/3 innings and allowed only 2 hits through 5 innings. Geovany Soto drove in a pair of runs with a 2-out single in the 7th. Mark DeRosa hit his first home run of the year in the 9th inning that accounted for the Cubs third and final run. Alfonso Soriano continued his struggles at the plate with a 0-for-4 day and has only one hit in the first 4 games.
This is a simple game, right? While there are rarely positives that can be found in a loss, both Rich Hill and Jon Lieber pitched good enough to earn the win. Hill once again received no run support and that has to add to the pressure he feels every time he takes the mound. And for Jon Lieber, talking about a hard luck loser….
After Soto’s single tied the game in the bottom of the 7th, Lance Berkman reached on an error by Mark DeRosa to start the 8th. Carlos Lee flied out to right center for the first out of the inning. Miguel Tejada, in his first game at Wrigley, stepped in and hit a 1-2 pitch from Lieber down the 3rd base line….that was barely fair. The ball hit off the sidewall and ricocheted into left field. Soriano over ran the ball and it rolled all the way to the wall. Berkman scored easily and Tejada ended up at third with a triple. Ty Wigginton followed with a sacrifice fly to center….Tejada scored the would-be winning run.
Cubs pitching allowed only 4 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits with 5 strikeouts, 3 walks….and they lost the game.
Reed Johnson recorded his first hit as a Cub with a pinch-hit double in the 6th inning.
Lou Piniella’s crew cannot afford to continue wasting pitching performances like the ones they received this week. If the offense was hitting and the defense was playing smart, fundamental baseball, the Cubs record would be a mirror image of what it is.
The offense will not get any breaks on Saturday. Roy Oswalt is scheduled to make his second start of the year after losing in San Diego on Opening Day. Jason Marquis will take the hill for the Cubs.